What is Porchetta?

A true classic porchetta pork roast is made from a deboned pig that has been rolled, tied, and roasted over a spit.  Now, while I love to cook, I’m never going to debone a pig.  But the idea of a slow cooked piece of pork has always held great appeal for my family (see: Fall-Apart Pork Roast and Pernil, for two examples).  It was time to tackle this Italian classic!

Porchetta

Pork Shoulder alla Porchetta

The cut used in this recipe is a pork shoulder, which is readily available, quite affordable, and easy to handle.  If you can get a shoulder from a good butcher or other fine source of pork, please do that.  And if possible, ask for a make sure that pork shoulder has some skin on it, along with a visible layer of fat.  In order to get the crackling skin that makes porchetta so irresistible, you’ll need some fat and skin on the roast.   

Some people use a pork loin, but I really think that cut of pork is too lean for this slow cooked Tuscan pork roast, and you’d be missing out on the skin and the fat, which makes it fall apart delicious.

Porchetta

Fennel in Porchetta

The flavor of fennel features heavily in classic porchetta.  This recipe, like most traditional porchetta recipes, calls for a combination of fennel fronds and fennel seeds.  Fennel fronds are the feathery plumes that sprout from the top of the fennel bulb.  They can be trimmed off and chopped for this recipe (it’s fine if you have a bit of the top of the fennel mixed in there).  The rest of the fennel can be saved for another use, or thinly sliced and added to a salad.

If you have access to fennel pollen, great!  That’s a classic ingredient in many porchetta recipes (which, by the way, is pronounced porketta).  It’s much fluffier than fennel seeds, and you can find it at Italian markets or specialty shops, and of course online.  If you can get it, use 2 tablespoons instead of the 1 tablespoon fennel seeds.

Porchetta: This slow cooked Tuscan pork roast with its amazingly tender inside and crackling crust is a classic for a reason.

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Porchetta

Tying Pork Shoulder

The easiest thing to do is to get your butcher to tie it for you.  And these days some online grocery services will allow you to order your meat tied or untied.  If you are game to tie it up yourself, use kitchen twine and tie it up at two-inch intervals.  

Crispy Pork Skin on Porchetta

If there is a lot of external fat on the pork, trim it down to ¼ inch.

Score the skin and fat on the pork loin, trying not to cut down into the meat.  This layer of fat will turn into a wonderfully crackly crust, and should not be missed; it’s one of the best parts of the porchetta.  Make sure everyone who is enjoying the porchetta gets a nice piece of this crust to mix into their soft interior meat.  

Porchetta

What to Serve with Porchetta:

As you can see below, everyone in my family was excited about this porchetta.

Otis eating porchetta

Other Slow Cooked Pork Dishes:

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Porchetta

This slow cooked Tuscan pork roast with its amazingly tender inside and crackling crust is a classic for a reason.
Yield: 10 People
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) boneless pork shoulder roast (already tied or tie it yourself; see below)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt , or to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fennel fronds
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds , crushed (see Note)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper , or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine

Directions

  • If there is a lot of external fat on the pork loin, trim it to ¼-inch thickness. With a sharp knife, score the skin in a cross-hatched pattern, about 1/8-inch deep, avoiding cutting down into the meat (if the pork is tied, avoid the twine). Then make about a dozen ½-inch deep slits over the non-skin surface of the pork shoulder.
  • Season the pork all over with salt. In a food processor combine the fennel fronds, garlic, rosemary, sage, fennel seeds, lemon zest, pepper, red pepper flakes and olive oil. Pulse to combine thoroughly into a paste. Alternatively you can use a mortar and pestle.
  • Rub the paste all over the outside or the pork, pushing the mixture into the slits. If the pork has not been tied already, tie the pork with kitchen twine at 2-inch intervals creating a roundish, somewhat uniform shape. Place in a shallow baking large enough to hold the pork, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate from 6 to 24 hours.
  • Allow the pork to come to room temperature, which will take about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Remove the plastic wrap and roast the pork loin for 2 hours, then pour the wine over the roast, and baste it (if you have time). Continue roasting and basting every hour (again, nothing bad will happen if you don’t baste), for another 3 to 4 or so hours until a thermometer inserted into the center of the roast registers 180°F.
  • Remove from the oven and let the pork rest for at least 15 minutes. Remove the twine, and slice the porchetta into thin or thick slices (your call!) and serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes

To crush fennel seeds you can use a mortar and pestle of a spice mill, or if you don’t have either, place them on a cutting board and use the handle end of a sturdy chef’s knife to crush them lightly on the board.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 364kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 51g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 360mg | Potassium: 914mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 80IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 3mg

The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

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